By Bode Olagoke
Human rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, yesterday said the United States of America Embassy in Nigeria, has assured it would forward to President Donald Trump the group’s request for the repatriation of the $500million looted fund kept in the US by the late Head of State, Gen Sanni Abacha.
The assurance, the group said, was received via a recent letter from the US Deputy Chief of Mission, David J. Young, where he said “we will relay your letter to President Donald J. Trump and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, requesting the administration to attach and release to Nigeria some $500m worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator. Gen. Sani Abacha.”
The embassy’s letter was a response to a similar one by SERAP, dated 3 February, 2017 and signed by the organisation’s US Volunteer Counsel, Prof. Alexander W. Sierck, and Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.
Young said the US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in regular communication with the Nigerian government on how to further cooperate and conclude pending asset forfeiture cases and to develop a mechanism for the timely and transparent repatriation of those assets.
According to him, the US had been communicating with Nigeria through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, urging the group to liaise with the AGF on the matter .
“The United States Government supports the Government of Nigeria’s efforts to work with the civil society to identify how harm can be remedied through the return of stolen assets. We encourage you to disclose these issues with the Nigerian Attorney General and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who are working closely with the US on the repatriation process.
“We were encouraged by civil society’s role in the development of Nigeria’s Open Government Partnership Action Plan and the commitment to strengthening laws to foster transparency and accountability in the management of recovered and returned assets,” the letter read in part.
SERAP had in its letter said, “the $500m proceeds are separate from the $480m of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the US under an August 2014 US federal district court order.
It urged the Trump administration “to initiate discussions with the Nigerian government to fulfill these objectives within an agreed framework and timeline.
“Simultaneously, the administration should instruct the Justice Department to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings in regard to the above-referenced $500m in assets described above.”
SERAP stated that its request was consistent with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which both the US and Nigeria had ratified.